How to Add Exercise to Your Daily Schedule
Even though the benefits of exercise are widely known, with so many daily responsibilities many people struggle to make a big lifestyle change. In this blog, you’ll find tips on how to include physical activity in your routine regardless of how little time you might have.
The Relationship Between Exercise and Mental Health
While many people exercise just to lose weight, physical activity is also beneficial for your mental health. When you move your body, it releases chemicals called endorphins that promote relaxation and make you feel good. As your stress levels decrease, you’re more likely to have a restful sleep that translates into an improved mood and better concentration. Additionally, exercising can give you a sense of accomplishment that boosts your motivation and has been associated with higher self-esteem.  Physical activity is also an alternative approach to treating anxiety or depression. Findings from previous studies show that depressive symptoms improve in people who engage in physical activity. 
How Long Should I Exercise For?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense activity per week. However, don’t feel pressured to exercise with this kind of frequency straight away.
How to Include Exercise in Your Daily Routine
You don’t necessarily have to commit to regular aerobic classes or buy a gym membership to become more physically healthy. Here’s how you can sneak exercise into your routine:
One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re getting a daily dose of exercise is combining it with activities you do for fun. For example, you can stretch while you’re watching TV and walk while talking to your friends on the phone. Similarly, you could move your body while cleaning the house or revise material you’d studied as you’re taking a walk.
- Take advantage of your lunch breaks
Mental exhaustion is real and all you might feel like doing during your lunch break might be resting your head on your arms or mindlessly scrolling through social media. However, the best way to let both your body and mind recover is to get your blood flowing. For example, you could take a quick walk or squeeze in a few simple exercises, such as gently stretching your back and neck or doing squats.
- Take the stairs
While choosing stairs over taking an elevator might not seem like a lot, it’s still a positive change that can greatly improve your stamina. You might not save time but you’ll feel stronger and healthier.
- Find an active hobby
What do you think of when you hear ‘exercise’, running, aerobics or lifting weights? There isn’t one size fits all and if none of these activities sounds appealing, don’t worry. You can always find a hobby that keeps you physically fit and is enjoyable at the same time. For example, you could try skating, horse-riding, badminton, swimming and so on. Search for classes in your area and see what’s on the offer.
- Check out guided exercise routines on YouTube
If you don’t have enough time to devote to exercising, you can always find one of those exercises routines on YouTube that are a few minutes long. Even the smallest change is a step in the right direction.
How To Stick to Your New Routine
While coming up with a new schedule is easy and quite fun, actually sticking to your new exercise routine is a real challenge, especially if you’ve never been partial to physical activity. But here are a few tactics that can help you keep yourself motivated:
- Find an internal goal
If you want to stick to a new routine, it has to be purposeful. Think of an internal goal that drives you to become physically active. This could be a desire to prove to yourself that you can do it, wanting to improve your mental health, feeling better about yourself and so on.
Setting ambitious goals can be an instant motivation boost but the effects are usually short-lived. If you overestimate your abilities, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and you’re more likely to give up when you face setbacks. Instead, you should divide your goals into smaller goals and start small. For example, if you’re hoping to run 3 days per week, start by running a day per week and gradually increase your activity level.
3. Be kind to yourself
Working hard isn’t always the best option because you can’t expect to be at your best all the time. Sometimes it’s more productive to just let yourself rest. Whenever you fail to stick to your promise, remind yourself that you can do better next time and it’s okay to put your feet up sometimes.
4. Don’t see it as a chore
The main goal of being physically active is to be healthy which is why exercising should be seen in the same category as brushing your teeth. Luckily, the more you do it, the more of a habit it becomes so don’t give up and don’t put too much pressure on yourself – you’ll get there.
5. Get inspiration from your friends
Did you know that people tend to model their friend’s behaviour? One recent study found that if your friendship is supportive, you’re more likely to mirror your friend’s exercise habits.  So if you have a good friend who keeps themselves active, ask them for tips. If your friends aren’t sporty, you can always join a support group on social media and share each other’s goals and struggles.
6. Don’t compare yourself to other people
Use social media for inspiration but never to compare your progress to other people’s. Exercising is supposed to be fun, not a competition. You don’t have to become an athlete to enjoy the benefits of keeping physically active. Do what feels best for your body.
7. Celebrate your efforts
Don’t dwell too much on your failures – focus on the positives. Keep a journal where you document your progress and thank yourself for making an effort.
If you struggle to commit to exercising and feel like you can’t motivate yourself no matter how hard you try, you might have to resolve an underlying issue first. Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat and let’s figure out how we can help